How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Mental Health..Chronic Insomnia, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, And PTSD..

Because Americans are severely sleep deprived, buying the right mattress is just part of the equation to getting a great night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation further compounds the problem of mental health and wellness, and people with mental health issues usually have insomnia.  During the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people have experienced depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other conditions as a result of a sudden shift in lifestyle changes. Being trapped inside all day without the normal stimulation of work or social life can be devastating, not just a nuisance.

Patients with chronic sleep problems account for as much as 80% of the traffic walking through the doors of psychotherapists, medical clinics,  and other mental health care professionals, and are common with patients who already suffer from bipolar disorder, ADHD, and other disorders.  

Often viewed as symptoms of a larger medical problems, but clinicians now realize that sleep deprivation can also directly contribute to psychiatric disorders, and treatment of sleep deprivation symptoms can dampen or alleviate symptoms of an ongoing mental health issue.

There is a complex relationship between sleep and mental health states which is not entirely understood, but medical imaging and biochemical studies suggest strongly that getting a good night’s sleep can bolster emotional and mental resilience by making our brains more elastic and able to withstand more stress. 

Chronic exhaustion or poor sleep, on the other hand, can be a tipping point for further mental health problems. Once this happens, a vicious cycle often spins into action, which is difficult to shut down.

About every hour and a half, a typical person shifts between two models of sleep, and the gap widens between each phase the longer someone sleeps. 

During the “quiet” sleep phase, a person proceeds through four stages of ever increasing deep sleep. Body temperature drops, heart rate and breathing begin to slow down, and muscles become less tense and relax. At the deepest phase of quiet sleep, the brain becomes busy repairing and building new tissues and cells, and commences physiological changes that help boost immune system function.

About 90 minutes later, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, begins and  this is the period when people dream quite vividly. Body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rise back to levels similar  to a waking state. REM sleep enhances learning and memory and contributes to emotional wellness in very complex ways.

Sleep deprivation immediately throws brain chemistry out of whack. Although scientists are still trying to understand the complex layer of neurochemistry associated with sleep,  it’s fairly straightforward knowledge that sleep disruption, which affects levels of neurotransmitters, stress hormones, and our vital organ systems, among other things, wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing mental clarity and our emotional spectrum. In this way, insomnia may further exacerbate the effects of psychiatric disorders, and vice versa.

Skip one night of sleep and you’ll feel it. While some people can tolerate working shift work and operating at a sleep deficit, almost everyone will begin to crash and burn after just two nights of disrupted sleep patterns.

Psychological Effects Of Sleep Deprivation

More than 60 discernible and separately diagnosable sleep disorders exist. The most common are generalized insomnia (difficulty falling or and asleep), obstructive sleep apnea (dysfunctional breathing patterns that causes multiple awakenings), various movement syndromes (pain or other sensations that prompt restless limbs and cause constant tossing and turning, and narcolepsy (extreme sleepiness including falling asleep spontaneously during waking hours).

The overlap between sleep disorders and various psychiatric problems is so broad that researchers have long know that both types of problems have common biological roots.

Perhaps the largest group of people who suffer from sleep deprivation also suffers from depression. Studies suggest that 65% to 90% of adult patients with severe clinical depression, and about 90% of children with the disorder, experience some kind of sleep problem. Most patients with depression suffer from insomnia, but about one in five suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Insomnia and other sleep problems have been shown to increase dramatically the risk of developing clinical depression. A study of about 1,000 adults ages 21 to 30 who were all enrolled in a Michigan health maintenance organization found that compared with typical sleepers, those who reported a history of insomnia during an initial interview in 1989 were almost five times as likely to develop severe clinical depression by the time a second interview was conducted just three years later.

And two other studies in young people including one involving 300 pairs of young twins, and another including 1,014 teenagers revealed that sleep problems well before  the onset of severe clinical major depression.

Insomnia and other sleep problems often have profound implications for patients with depression. Studies suggest that patients with clinical depression who continue to experience sleep problems are less likely to respond to treatment than those without sleep problems. Even patients whose depression recedes with pharmaceutical intervention are more at risk for a relapse of clinical depression later on. Further, patients who suffer from insomnia or other sleep maladies are more likely to contemplate suicide and die by suicide than clinically depressed individuals who are able to sleep normally.

Studies in various populations have concluded that 70% to virtually all patients experience insomnia or note a reduced need for sleep during a manic episode of bipolar disorder. When in the depression phase of bipolar disorder, however, studies report that as many of 80% of these patients experience hyper-somnia (excess sleep), while a few may experience insomnia or restless sleep.

Some studies suggest that insomnia and other sleep problems become worse immediately prior to an episode of mania or bipolar depression, and that sleep deprivation can trigger mania. Sleep problems also adversely affect mood and contribute to relapse of these manic episodes.

Sleep problems affect more than 60% of adult patients with generalized anxiety disorder, and are very frequent in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as in panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias. They are also common in children and adolescents. One sleep laboratory study found that children with an anxiety disorder took substantially longer to fall asleep, and slept more lightly, when compared with a control group of healthy children.

Many of these children can improve their sleep induction, that is their ability to fall asleep, merely by improving their sleep hygiene, which includes your sleep space, their mattress, or even the use of a new pillow, particularly one that is designed to side sleeping, such as a low profile pillow.

Insomnia might also be a risk factor for developing an anxiety disorder, but it isn’t as likely to be as high a risk factor for major depression. In the study of teenagers mentioned above, for example, sleep problems were present in newly diagnosed anxiety disorders 27% of the time, while they were found to exist in patients prior to a clinical depression diagnosis a whopping 70% of the time.

Sleep disorder brought about by sleep deprivation can worsen the symptoms of anxiety disorders and even have an impact on the ability to recover. Disrupted sleep in PTSD patients may contribute to an increase in retained negative emotional memories and keep patients from seeking relief in fear elimination therapies.

Even ADHD is often directly tied to sleep disorders, and we get into a lot of detail on our ADHD page.  Sleep disorder affect up to 50% of children with ADHD. The symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, shorter sleep times, and restless sleep that deprives children of the restorative REM sleep stage that they desperately need. The symptoms of ADHD and sleep disorders overlap making it difficult to make a correct diagnosis in many of these children’s cases.

Breathing disorders associated with sleep deprivation can affect up to 25% of children with ADHD, other medical problems such as restless legs syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder, greatly increasing symptoms and the endless cycle of poor sleep resulting in other symptoms. And children with sleeping disorders can quickly become hyperactive, inattentive, and emotionally unstable merely from poor sleep quality, and though the symptoms may not precisely resemble those of a hard — even when they do not meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

How Sleep Can Be Improved With Simple Lifestyle Changes

If you take a hard look at most treatment regimens for sleep deprivation involving insomnia, it’s virtually identical, regardless of whether patients suffer from psychiatric disorders or not. The basics include a combination of lifestyle changes, behavioral strategies, psychotherapy, and medications,  if necessary.

Lifestyle changes include reducing caffeine, reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, and cessation of smoking and sugar consumption, which are some of the first line habits that need to be modified. Almost everyone knows that caffeine contributes to sleeplessness, but so can alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol depresses the nervous system initially, which aids in helping some people to fall asleep, but once the alcohol is metabolized, many people wake up and are unable to go back to sleep.

Nicotine is a stimulant, which increases heart rate and can cause your brain to race, which prevents the body’s natural calming mechanism from kicking it, enabling your brain to shut down and fall asleep. Giving up these substances is one thing, but completely avoiding them near bed time is absolutely critical.

Exercise, especially regular aerobic activity has been proven to help people fall asleep faster, spend more time in restorative REM, or deep sleep, and reduces the likelihood of waking up during the night. 

Many experts concede that people must learn insomnia, and can also  learn how to sleep better. Proper “sleep hygiene” is the technique for doing this, and includes pretty  fundamental tips like observing a regular sleep-and-wake schedule, using the sleeping space only for sleeping or sex, and keeping the environment dark and free of distractions like blue light coming from hand held devices, computers or television. Some experts offer what is called “sleep retraining”, that is intentionally staying awake longer in order to insure that sleep is more restful and productive

Relaxation techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation (alternately tensing and releasing muscles) can reduce or eliminate anxiety and racing thoughts.

Often people become caught in a loop with insomnia, believing that they will never fall asleep again, resulting in dread associated with bed time and tossing and turning. Being preoccupied with not falling asleep can be helped with cognitive behavioral techniques that change negative expectations and try to build more confidence to help you understand that tossing and turning isn’t going to kill you.

The body and mind are very good at righting themselves, and these techniques can help folks with insomnia turn the tables on restlessness and through habit, simply learn to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Insomnia is a very common problem, all over rather world. throughout the world. According to some studies it is believed to affect approximately 33% of the world’s population. That’s a lot of people tossing and turning. Even people who don’t suffer from pervasive chronic insomnia often struggle with sleep problems, at least occasionally. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a full 33% of adults in the U.S. report that they get less than the recommended amount of sleep each night. Because of this, it is important to understand the potential impact that lack of sleep may have on health, including mental health and well-being. 

A great mattress might be something you should consider to reinvent the way you sleep, the way your body is supported and cradled, and the tactile benefit you get from the perfect sleep surface. Many of our readers end up on this site after wandering around the web trying to find the perfect mattress. Check out our Trusted Dealers page, where we offer a carefully curated selection of mattresses that can change the way you sleep..and the way your restful day improves!